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During a conversation with a friend, I began to wonder if there's is a term for the transformation of potential energy to kinetic energy, and vice versa.Is there a term for the process of converting potential energy to kinetic?

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Short answer: No, there is no universally accepted term for this particual process. –  Winther Jul 17 '14 at 0:23
Maybe "Falling"? –  DJohnM Jul 17 '14 at 1:44
That term isn't general enough to account for all types of potential energy and kinetic energy. –  Numoru Jul 17 '14 at 2:37

2 Answers 2


Potential energy exists because of some force that exists, and moving an object relative to that force causes work to be done. And by the work-energy theorem, the work done on an object is equal to the change in kinetic energy of that object.

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Sure, but changing kinetic to potential energy is also work... –  Winther Jul 17 '14 at 0:24
Yep, but with a negative sign instead of a positive sign. –  Joshua Jul 17 '14 at 0:24
...and also for changing potential energy to thermal energy –  Winther Jul 17 '14 at 0:25
@Winther maybe thermal energy is just kinetic energy on a microscopic scale. Feynman seems to think so, anyway. (And who can argue with something Feynman said?) –  Phil Frost Jul 17 '14 at 0:27
Of course no physicist would use the OP's words to define work, but they would say that "work is the movement of energy from one place or form to another place or form by mechanical means" which is fairly applicable to the OP's question. And, I suspect, pretty unsatisfying. –  dmckee Jul 17 '14 at 0:54

This is not specific to converting potential energy to kinetic, but the term you're looking for might be "transduction" or "to transduce"- the process of converting energy from one form to another.

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